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Mark 9:36

ESV And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,
NIV He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,
NASB And He took a child and placed him among them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them,
CSB He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,
NLT Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,
KJV And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,

What does Mark 9:36 mean?

Jesus and the disciples are in a house in Capernaum trying to avoid the crowds (Mark 9:30). Since it is probably Peter and Andrew's house, the child may be a son or nephew. Later, when Jesus is traveling and teaching in Judea and Perea, He will correct the disciples when they try to manage the crowd by keeping children away (Mark 10:13–16). In their attempt to control Jesus' "brand," they risk causing children to stumble by keeping them from Jesus. In Capernaum, Jesus has no problem allowing the child to hear His teaching and in Judea He again welcomes them. There may be times when a Bible lesson is inappropriate for small ears, but those times should be very rare.

Jesus is not saying the disciples should accept the child because he is innocent or blessed with secret wisdom but because he is of the lowest social status and completely without power. At that time, even servants had authority over children. In the church, we are used to devoting a great deal of our time and resources to the education of children through Sunday School, mid-week programs, or vacation Bible school. Modern American Christian families take the training of their children seriously, often choosing to protect them from unbiblical beliefs through homeschooling. This devotion more reflects the concern of the father of the possessed boy (Mark 9:17) than the prickly disciples.

The disciples may have thought that because the boy was from the house, Jesus' teaching refers only to children they know, but Jesus will teach against such parochialism (Mark 9:38–41; 10:13–16). It's one thing to welcome our own children or a child that attends our church. It's another to welcome and protect a child who truly can do nothing for us. That may mean sponsoring a child through a ministry like Compassion International or supporting vulnerable local children including children in poverty, foster care, or immigrant families.
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